Next month will witness the debut of AMC’s first unscripted series. Comic Book Men will be set in Kevin Smith’s New Jersey comic book store, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, and proposes to capture “all the aspects of the comic store life.” Speaking as someone who grew up digging through back issues of The Mighty Thor trying to find issues 364-366 so I could read the complete “Thor Turns Into a Frog” saga, I am desperately hoping that the show will be a fascinating and stereotype-imploding examination of comic book store culture. Unfortunately, this is the first press image released from the show:
Here’s what I read from the image:
1. A dude with a long beard is doing a Gandalf impersonation.
2. A dude with a Tony Stark beard is doing a Pawn Stars impression.
3. Kevin Smith has an expression on his face that seems to say “Eh, it’s a TV show, why not!” and he’s wearing a shirt with his podcast’s logo on it, which only enhances the nagging suspicion that Comic Book Men is an advertisement for Kevin Smith’s lucrative side career as a professional Kevin Smith.
4. Everyone is standing in a blank holodeck, draped in a particularly sassy shade of blue that makes Comic Book Men look like a community-theatre re-enactment of Burn Notice, with no girls allowed.
Now, let’s be kind and say that 2011 was a “rocky” year for AMC. On one hand, the fourth season of Breaking Bad was maybe the best season of maybe the best show in TV history. On the other hand, AMC’s other maybe-the-best-show-in-TV-history, Mad Men, took an extended break. And the break only happened because AMC became embroiled in extremely public, Why-are-Mommy-and-Daddy-fighting? contract negotiations with Mad Men’s self-apotheosizing producer Matthew Weiner.
Fortunately, AMC had lots of other shows ready to take Mad Men’s place. Unfortunately, one of those shows was The Killing, whose very title is now so toxic that other TV showrunners pointedly reference The Killing as an example of what not to do. (See: Community’s Dan Harmon, Homeland’s Alex Gansa, Twitter’s Uncle Lindelof.) And another one of those shows was The Walking Dead, which had a slow-moving second season, a season that is even more disappointing when you learn that departed showrunner Frank Darabont’s original plan would have apparently featured approximately 500 percent more Black Hawk Down. And then there was Hell on Wheels, which has trains that go real fast. Toot-tooot!
All these shows did just fine in the ratings, but it’s clear that the previously impeccable AMC brand has been tarnished. Surely, the network must have some trick up its sleeve, some snazzy new series that will redefine television. Is Comic Book Men that series?
I am skeptical. Then again, Keith Staskiewicz just walked into my office and pointed out that the advert is clearly intended to resemble the poster for Clerks, so maybe there are reasons to be hopeful. And in the end, if Comic Book Men is a horrible failure, Kevin Smith will almost certainly do a podcast where he insults AMC executives and talks about how much he hates reality shows, and so the natural order shall be restored.
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